Stewart Test Page
With application season winding down and hunting season right around the corner, the mind of the hunter begins to think about the gear that either made the hunt or cost an opportunity at successfully harvesting. Having a critical eye on my gear list was pivotal for me going into last season. I made several long-overdue upgrades and additions to my gear list. Although I can look at my list and highlight several items that helped me be more successful and comfortable in the field, the upgrading of my riflescope is number one by far.
Although raised in a hunting family, the technological side of hunting for us seemed to stop in the early 90s. We used fixed 3-9x40 scopes that were usually sold as a kit with our rifles. Bipods attached to picatinny rails were not even a thought, levels were for carpentry, not marksmanship, and shooting past 300 yards was damn near considered unsportsmanlike. For a long time that is what everyone around me hunted with and nothing seemed out of place. But this was a farce and ultimately became limiting.
This technical shortcoming came to a head in the fall of 2018 on a solo black bear hunt in the Sierra Nevada mountains of California. Near dusk, I had just about given up glassing a small, high mountain meadow when I spotted the unmistakable, jet-black rump of a bear moseying over a ridge almost 300 yards upwind. With limited time before the legal shooting light ended, I made the risky choice to make a bee-line towards the bear. Cresting the ridge the bear had disappeared over, I stopped and, using a conifer for partial cover, I surveyed the collie-lined landscape. After a few minutes of not turning the bruin up, I was about to call it quits when I looked down into the meadow bottom and located the bear meandering through some tall grass. I quickly made my way to a firm shooting position, with a downhill angle and what I estimated to be 350 yards, I released the safety, racked a round, counted my breaths, settled the crosshairs, and squeezed the trigger. With no reaction from the bear, no sound of a hit, and no other signs of a successful shot, I ejected the cartridge and prepared to shoot again. Thinking I hit low, I held about 3 inches above the vitals and shot. Again, with no reaction from the bear, I made up my mind to not shoot again. The bear moved off to the other side of the meadow and darkness fell. In the AM I would check for blood just to confirm the misses and followed its tracks for a half-mile without signs of distress.